HIAS Past Meetings, 2015/2017

Below are brief summaries of previous HIAS meetings from January 2015.

2015

January 5th, Haslar's half-mile of history

For the start of the New Year, we were pleased to welcome back David Henshaw to talk to us on "Haslar's half-mile of history". With its shallow draught, Haslar Creek adjacent to Portsmouth Dockyard was chosen in the 19th Century to maintain a fleet of wooden gunboats to protect Britain's ever expanding industrial interests. From 1886 Haslar was also the site of the Admiralty's covered testing tank originally designed by William Froude in 1868. The latest proposal for the site is to create a centre for the preservation of Haslar's historic naval heritage making Haslar a "Heritage hotspot" in the area. Although dwarfed by Portsmouth in publicity and money spent, Haslar also had an important part to play in our naval history.

 

February 2nd, What's in the Pantry?

Jenny Carter brought two baskets containing items which could be found "in the pantry". Apparently the pantry was where dry products were stored and a larder was for hanging meat. She began her talk by saying that, in the "old days", people grew their own food but those living near ports could buy a better range of imported products. When the industrial revolution came along and tins were manufactured from 1810, many more food items could be stored. Jenny explained the background to many famous products like Heinz '57' varieties, HP sauce, Bird's Custard (1837), Oxo cubes, Horlicks and Huntley & Palmer biscuits. One revelation was that tea bags began by accident in New York when a sample of tea was sent in a muslin bag. It was a fascinating talk which explained where many of our packaged foodstuffs originated.

 

March 2nd, Industrial Archaeology in Polar Regions

For our March talk we were pleased to have two of our own HIAS members, Angela & Nigel Smith talking to us on "Industrial Archaeology in Polar Regions".   Angela began with the North Pole and Nigel followed with the South Pole.    Both regions are rich in historic industrial archaeology with the most northerly post office being situated in Ny-Ålesund, as well as Roald Amundsen's Memorial.      Nigel's talk was primarily about the once thriving whaling industry and associated buildings and equipment in the Falklands, as well as other I.A relics, and a picture of Ernest Shackleton's grave.    Aptly, Angela started with a picture of a polar bear and Nigel finished with a picture of a Chinstrap penguin.

 

April 13th, Miscellaneous

Unfortunately, Tony Yoward was unable to give April's talk, so our President, Bill White, kindly stepped in and entertained us with an evening of  "Miscellaneous".   We looked at various old photos of Southampton dating from the 1860s, a film made by Southern Railway during WW2 showing troops travelling from Waterloo to Southampton Terminus Station, which also included film of some of the  small ships coming back from Dunkirk carrying BEF troops.    Bill ended his miscellany with an American film showing the restoration works being carried out of an old  locomotive.

 

May 11th, Forgotten Wrecks of WW1

For May's talk we welcomed back Stephen Fisher who, if you remember, talked to us back in February 2013 on Providing access to Hampshire's Heritage [PATHH].  This time Stephen's talk was on "Forgotten Wrecks of WW1".    Stephen is the Forgotten Wrecks project's Research Officer with a long standing interest in military history.   Stephen began with a brief history of how early on in the conflict, Germany began by attacking our trade routes with constant battles between the German Navy and the British.  It was also early on in the war in 1914 that the German Navy inflicted the first defeat for 100 years on the Royal Navy.  Stephen said that this project is very important as often the only surviving examples of a particular type of ship are those lying on the seabed.   It was a fascinating and informative talk, as I am sure most of us were totally unaware of the amount of sea battles which took place during this time, as the focus is usually on the major battles fought on the Western Front.

 

June 1st, Village Life in the 40s & 50s

Our June speaker was John Pitman on "Village Life in the 40s & 50s".  John based his talk on his own recollections and experiences growing up in Headbourne Worthy which, at the time, was just a small village on the outskirts of Winchester.  John's memories were rich and varied reflecting the way most village people lived including growing their own vegetables, an outside toilet, a bathing  in front of the fire, the water having been heated via a copper boiler, his mother cooking on a blackened range, and of course, the war and rationing.   The radio was quite important and John was quite nostalgic about the programmes he used to listen to.  John's talk was slightly unsettling in that most of us present could remember many of these things as well!

 

July 6th, Impromptu Evening

Unfortunately, our July speaker was unable to come and talk to us, but, fortunately, our Chairman, Howard Sprenger, and HIAS members Ray Riley, Andy & Rob Fish provided the evening's entertainment. Howard began with "Manchester & Salford - a tale of 2 Cites", Ray Riley spoke on social change since the 1950s and Andy & Rob Fish provided nine short DVDs on a variety of industrial archaeology topics. We hope to have the Purbeck Clay Mining Industry talk next year, but were very grateful to have been well entertained by our "in house" substitutes, especially at such short notice.

 

August 3rd, Alexandra Palace

We had a very good turnout for our August meeting and were pleased to see some new faces as well as old.   Our speaker was Peter Keat, whom we were pleased to welcome back to talk to us about "Alexandra Palace" situated in North London and referred to as "The People's Palace".    Peter's talk was in the form of a DVD presentation titled "A Palace for the People" a local history video tracing the story of the Palace & Park from 1873, and then rebuilt in 1875 following a destructive fire, to its second fire in 1980.   Supposedly nicknamed "Ally Pally" by Gracie Fields, it has had a chequered history having been used for a variety of uses, from entertainment to housing prisoners and internees during the two world wars.   The BBC broadcast from there for many years, with its familiar mast still in use.   The Palace became a Listed Building in 1996.

 

September 7th, Members' Evening

Our September meeting was our traditional "Members' Evening" which included Nigel Smith talking to us about the restoration of the Bugsworth Canal Basin in North Derbyshire, Keith Andrews with a selection of pictures taken around Scotland based on Gillian Nelson's book "Highland Bridges", Ivan Downer reminiscing on "Wrecks I have Sailed" about his time spent at sea, and finally Martin Gregory on a brief update on the progress that has been made this year on the Babcock & Wilcox boilers at Twyford Waterworks. 

 

October 5th, Looking at Lime Kilns

We were pleased to welcome along one of our regular contributors to our October meeting, Dr Peter Stanier.   Peter's talk concentrated mainly on lime kilns in Dorset, where he has been studying and photographing them since the 1970s.   After a brief history of the limekiln industry and a short chemistry lesson, we looked at numerous photographs taken by Peter not just of Dorset limekilns, but some in other parts of the country.  We also saw some paintings of limekilns by J M W Turner, who also thought them interesting and attractive enough to capture on canvas.   The extensive use of lime and the development of kilns has been attributed to the Romans, as there is no evidence of limekilns before the Roman period.  As usual, Peter's talk was very interesting and illuminating and said that not enough fuss is being made about preserving them, but it is well worth recording what is left today, as could be gone by tomorrow.

 

November 2nd,  AGM and Romsey Signal Box

Our November meeting was the AGM, and although attendance numbers are usually down, we had about 36 members turn up.  After the AGM and the tea/coffee break, our Chairman, Howard Sprenger, kindly gave us a talk and up-date on the renovation and re-opening of the Romsey Signal Box.   Dating from about 1895 it represents a very early London & South Western Railway Signal Box situated on the Eastleigh to Salisbury Line, although no longer connected to the mainline.  It was moved, when decommissioned 33 years ago, to the grounds of the Romsey Infant School [no longer there] but now stands close to a new housing estate.     It was subsequently purchased by the Romsey & District Buildings Preservation Trust for a nominal 10.   After extensive renovation work, it was re-opened on the 6th September this year, and is open to the public the first Sunday in each month except January.   

For further information please go to http://www.romseysignalbox.org,uk

 

December 7th,  Technology in the home 1800s - 1920s

For our December meeting we were pleased to have one of our own members, Dr Martin Gregory, speaking to us on "Technology in the home 1800s - 1920s".   Martin said that this talk expanded on from his last talk to us on apple peelers, to technology in the home.  We looked at various early kitchen appliances including ranges, washing machines, dryers and irons, as well as smaller items including a knife polisher, coffee grinder and a marmalade cutter.   Lighting and heating included both early examples of gas and electricity, including a 1908 petrol gas appliance - petrol was available from the 1900s, and carbon filament electric lamps for battery operation from the 1890s.  As it was the last meeting of the year, mince pies were available alongside the usual tea & coffee.

 

2016

January 4th, The Rise of the Railway

The first talk of 2016 was on the 4th January and saw a good turnout of members looking forward to hearing Chris Humby talk to us on the "Rise of the Railway Part 2" which turned out to be a history of the Eastleigh Railway Works and its impact on the town of Eastleigh. Chris is a member of the Bishopstoke History Society, a small group of enthusiasts, and has close connections with the town, with various relatives having worked on the Railway.

 

February 1, Ambulance Trains & Hospital Ships

February's speaker was Andy Skinner, SeaCity Museum's Learning Officer.   Andy's talk was titled "Uncle Albert's WW1 Diary - Ambulance, Trains & Hospital Ships" and was based on the diaries of his Great Great Uncle Albert Parker Dartnell, which were discovered after his death.  Albert was only 17 when he enlisted having lied about his age, 18 being the minimum.    Being short sighted he was sent as an RAMC  orderly to No 15 Ambulance Train, which had nine carriages and on board surgical wards with essential medical supplies.  By 1916, after completing 167 train journeys out of Southampton, Uncle Albert was sent to sea, and joined the hospital ship HMS St George with 60 beds.   He was now going into more dangerous waters, especially as the Germans started to target hospital ships saying they were fair game, believing them to be carrying weapons as well as the wounded.    By the end of the war, a total of 12 hospital ships had been sunk.    Uncle Albert was sent to Egypt at the end of 1917, and then to France where he was gassed and wounded, but lived until 1987.   It was a great story and we were very grateful for Andy for coming along and sharing his Great Great Uncle's first world war experiences with us.

 

April 4, Gordon-Keeble, Hampshire's only supercar

After March's mix-up, we were pleased to welcome along Mike Webster to tell us all about "Gordon-Kemble, Hampshire's very own Supercar". Remarkably, only 99 of these iconic cars were made between 1964-1967 with Mike owning chassis number 96.  All 99 were of the same design and each one known by their chassis number.  John Gordon & Jim Keeble were veterans of the Second World War, Jim Keeble having flown Spitfires.  Born in Suffolk, and well educated, his mother was from Southampton.  John Gordon was MD of "Peerless Cars". They got together in 1959 and produced the "Gordon GT".  In 1964 a hanger at Eastleigh Airport, now known as Southampton Airport was used to start work on the first Gordon-Keeble Car, which they hoped would rival the best GTs in Europe.  The cost of a GK car was around £3,600 but unfortunately by 1965, the Company was declared bankrupt.    Production did continue under new management, but the last GK Car was built in 1967.  However, there is now a thriving GK Owners' Club who celebrated 50 years of production in 2014 with the largest number of surviving Gordon-Keeble Cars ever assembled in one place.

 

May 9, Forton Lake & its Boat Shipyards

The HIAS talk on May 9th was on "Forton Lake & its Boat Shipyards" and was given by Commander Martin Marks, OBE, Royal Navy.   After a brief history of Forton Lake and its connections to both Gosport & Portsmouth, Martin's illustrated talk was on some of the shipyards that were situated there from the 18th Century.    As ships got bigger, the shipyards were used less and less and the Maritime Workshop is now used for restoration purposes for heritage ships such as Warrior and the Cutty Sark etc.   The Lake is now littered with wrecks which is of interest to the marine archaeologists who have been awarded a grant to carry out research and to record Forton Lake's heritage together with hearing from local people to learn as much as they can on the shipyard sites and their history.

 

June 6, The Swash Channel Wreck

Our speaker for our June meeting was retired Archaeologist Gordon Le Pard who kindly came along to tell us all about "The Swash Channel Wreck" an early 17th Century, possibly Dutch, armed merchantman, first located in March 1990 when dredging was being carried out at the entrance to Poole Harbour, when a cannon and some substantial timbers were brought to the surface. The cannon, amongst more than 1,000 artefacts have so far been recovered from the wreck by a team from Bournemouth University, and are now in Poole Museum. Archaeological evidence now suggests the ship, of which there is still a lot of mystery surrounding its origins and purpose, dates from about 1628 was a substantial armed merchant ship bound for the tropics.

July 6, Airfields of the New Forest

July's meeting was on the "Airfields of the New Forest" given by John Levesley, who informed us that he has been giving these talks for over 40 years now.     John begun his talk in 1910 with a brief history of early aviation in the New Forest and the Isle of Wight including such personalities as Tommy Sopwith and his test pilot and designer, the Australian, Harry Hawker.    By the 1930s there was a network of New Forest Airfields, but it was during the height of the Second World War that these airfields were expanded and added to numbering no less than 12 plus a few Advanced landing Grounds.   Little remains today of the extraordinary events which went on in the New Forest during that time, so we were grateful to John for coming along and giving us a detailed account of the huge contribution played by the New Forest Airfields to the war effort.

 

August 1, Two Tall Ships - Lord Nelson & Tenacious

August's talk was from two members of the Jubilee Sailing Trust, Glenn & Maureen Middleton. The Jubilee Trust was started in 1978 "around the time of the Independent Living Movement" whose aim is to "challenge & change perceptions of disability and ability in everyone". Glenn mostly concentrated his talk on the construction of the two ships, Tenacious & the Lord Nelson, but mainly on Tenacious, which along with Lord Nelson, was commissioned by the Trust specifically for disabled people. Taking us through the construction process starting with the search for a naval architect who was able to design a square rig sailing ship to September 2000, when Tenacious sailed to Sark, St Helier & Weymouth on her maiden voyage. A very interesting talk, especially as most of us had never heard of the Jubilee Sailing Trust, and anyone who would like to learn more about it, or is interested in being a volunteer, please go to www.jst.org.uk for further information.

 

September 5, Social impact of the railways

September's meeting was on the "Social Impact of Railways", and was given by one of our members, Professor Ray Riley, who ran through a number of areas in life that had been influenced by the development of railways.  He started with language, where idioms such as "off the rails" found their way into everyday use.  Next, he moved onto time, and described how "London Time" became "Railway Time" and thence "National Time".  Plymouth, for example, was 20 minutes behind London, and until railway time was adopted, the train guard had to adjust his timepiece as the train went along.  Times such as "twenty to twelve" were not written as "11.40" until Bradshaw issued the first edition of his famous timetables.  Other topics covered were: Diet, Retailing, Holidays, Housing and commuting, Excursions, Social displacement,  Hotels, Architecture,  Railway Works, Newspapers, Bookstalls, Post and Moral decline.

 

October 3, Wessex Brewing & Malting

As always, we were delighted to welcome back Dr Peter Stanier to our October's meeting to tell us all about malting & brewing in Wessex.    Before proceeding with his talk, Peter attempted to brew some beer by putting crushed malt, hops and some yeast in a glass and adding warm water.   This he put to one side stirring occasionally throughout his talk, which was most interesting and informative.  When Peter's  talk finished, it was time to check on the beer, which I must say looked pretty good from the back of the room having a good head on it, and looking like a glass of beer, although I am not sure that anyone actually had the nerve to sample it!   It was a good end to yet another entertaining talk from one of our favourite speakers.

 

November 7,  AGM and films

We have our AGM in November together with our photographic competition.   As usual, the standard was very high, and we had some good entries.  First prize was won by  Ruth Andrews for her photo of  Millstones at Stanage Edge in Derbyshire.   Second prize went to was Tony Yoward for the Wuppertal Schwebebahn in Germany and third prize to Keith Andrews for the Peat Railway [in County Offaly].  Rob Fish then entertained us with a profile of Francis Frith, the famous Victorian photographer, and we were then shown three films written and devised by Edwin Course, who sadly died earlier this year aged 93.   To end off the evening, Bill White told us about Andre, a French onion seller, who has been coming to Hythe for many years, and by Bill's reckoning, has probably spent half his life selling his bunches of onions to the good folk of Hythe.

   

December 5, Toys

Our December meeting was aptly titled "Toys", and the speaker was our President, Bill White.   Bill brought in a selection of his toys, some of which he has had since 1935, and still in very good condition.   These included a Hornby Train set, a Sindy doll, as well as some Tri-ang toys.   Further afield, we looked at the sort of toys that were being made in Germany just after the war including a working model of a brewery and toy trains.   Bill ended his talk by showing us some slides of early, now very famous Steiff Teddy Bears, accompanied by a short biography of Margarete Steiff who started the Company.   It was a good topic for this time of year, and a nice trip down memory lane, remembering the sort of toys we played with as kids. 

 

2017

January 9, Victorian-style Music Entertainment

Our first meeting of 2017 was on January 9th.  We were pleased to welcome along Peter Trodd to tell us all about "Victorian-style Music Entertainment", which concentrated on the various mechanical music devices built in Victorian times. To accompany his talk, Peter brought along a selection of machines from his collection that he began 20 years ago with the purchase of a disc operated music box circa 1900, which he painstakingly restored. Beginning with a brief history of music making from 400 BC with early examples of making sounds through pipes,  we looked at the c1392 Wells Cathedral's clock and Salisbury Cathedral's mechanical clock, which is claimed to be the oldest working clock in the world.   A short history of cylinder music boxes followed, interspersed with examples of music from Peter's own musical boxes.  The cylinders were normally made of metal and powered by a spring.    Towards the end of the 19th century, models such as the Polyphon were being mass produced and using interchangeable metal discs instead of cylinders.    Around this time there was also a growth in mobile piano players, often called barrel organs, which, unfortunately, often added to the general din of city life. A brief description and example of the cylinder phonograph followed created by Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison. By 1905, the industry was turning out about 110,000 cylinders a week.  Peter ended his very interesting talk on "Nipper" (1884-1895), the iconic mascot pictured in front of a cylinder phonograph and used on HMV recordings.  

 

February 6, Flying Boats in Southampton

Once again we were very glad that Colin van Geffen was able to come along to  February's meeting and talk to us about "Flying Boats of Southampton - Ships of the Sky".  Colin took us through the golden years of the commercial flying boat era, which barely spanned sixty years.  Colin also talked about aviation innovators including R J Mitchell and Thomas Sopwith and his Sopwith Flying Bat Boats designed and built from 1912-1914.   Looking at Colin's numerous photographs of these flying machines, we could not help being impressed by the luxuriousness of these early passenger planes, plus the distances they flew, as well as the time taken to complete their journeys owing to frequent refuelling stops.     It was a good talk, and we were pleased to see some new faces in the audience who had come along specially for Colin's talk, and we hope that they had such an enjoyable evening that they may consider becoming HIAS members.

 

March 6,  Art Deco Buildings in Southampton

We were pleased to welcome Dr Andy Russel to our March meeting to talk to us about "Art Deco" buildings in Southampton.    Andy has been Southampton City Council's Archaeologist since 1986 looking after their ancient monuments, or anything else that is "crumbling".   The term "Art Deco" was apparently not used until the 1960s to describe this type of architecture, as when first introduced the term "Modern" or "Moderne" was adopted, with ideas taken from many cultures.   Ocean Terminal and Southampton Civic Centre are the two grandest "Art Deco" buildings in the City, but we looked at many more including residential housing, cinemas, retail units, and the iconic shelter on Western Shore, recently saved with the help from the National Lottery.    We were pleased to see some new faces from other local historical groups, who came along especially to hear Andy's illuminating talk on the subject of  "Art Deco" design.

 

April 3, Quaker Businesses in Britain

For Aprils talk we were pleased to welcome along John Avery to tell us all about "Quaker Businesses in Britain".   Founded by George Fox in the 1650s the Quaker ethos of "Peace, Equality, Simplicity & Truth" found its way into many walks of life, and from the early 19th Century the Quakers established an impressive amount of well-known business including Barclays & Lloyds Banks, Clarks Shoes [still owned by Clarks today] and Bryant & May Matches.   However, it was the Quaker confectionery business which conquered the British sweetshop with such names as Cadburys, Rowntrees, Frys & Terrys which are still famous today.     The biscuit bands such as  Huntley & Palmers and Carrs are also very familiar to us.    John also touched upon the Quaker connection with the early Railways talking about the Stockton to Darlington Line, which subsequently become known as the "Quaker Line", as well as their interest in science with the Darbys of Coalbrookdale who were devout Quakers.    John also mentioned the John Lewis Partnership and in particular John Spedan Lewis [1885-1963] who was influenced by the Quaker business ethos, and put his employees at the heart of everything he did including introducing a profit sharing scheme